Naysayer Reality Check: Waymo’s Self-Driving Taxi Debuts in Phoenix, for Free

Every time I do a post on self-driving vehicles, readers respond that it cannot happen and won’t happen for a decade, if ever.

by Mish

It’s time for a reality check.

A quick check of my calendar shows we are not quite halfway through 2017. And a quick check of headline news shows Waymo’s Self-Driving Minivans Now Offer Rides to Real People in Arizona.

"Starting today, residents of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area can sign up to go for a ride in a self-driving minivan. As often as they want. For free.

Waymo, the self-driving car startup spun off from Google late last year, announced today that it’s offering its services to members of the public for the first time. Waymo is calling it an “early rider program,” intent on cataloging how on-demand, driverless cars will factor into people’s everyday lives. Interested participants can sign up on the company’s website, and Waymo will select riders depending on the the types of trips they want to take and their willingness to use the self-driving service as their primary mode of transportation.

A Waymo test driver will be behind the wheel at all times, but the company insists that the vehicle will drive without human intervention as much as possible. Rides will only be available to residents of Phoenix and the surrounding towns, like Gilbert, Tempe, and Chandler. Waymo describes the service areas as twice the size of San Francisco.

In order to accommodate what it hopes will be “hundreds” of riders, Waymo is ordering an additional 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans from its automaker partner, Fiat Chrysler, which it will then outfit with the laser sensors it manufactures in-house. Waymo already has 100 self-driving minivans that have been driving the streets of Phoenix and Mountain View, California, since earlier this year.

“We want as many people as possible to experience our technology, and we want to bring self-driving cars to more communities sooner,” said John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, in a Medium post published today."

Early Rider Program

What better way is there to create demand by giving away free services. That’s just what the Google spin-off did with its Early Rider Program.

Numerous readers emailed various links to this story. My favorite comes from reader Wade who wrote …

"Hi Mish,

I enjoy your back-and-forth with the unbelieving Luddites about self-driving cars.

I’ll make three predictions:

  1. Self-driving cars will work
  2. They will be hugely popular
  3. Nobody will admit they were wrong in being a skeptic

Wade"

If you think Google, Amazon, Ford, Toyota, Nikola, GM, Tesla, Apple, etc, etc, etc, will all fail with driverless and electric, you need a serious reality check.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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